Vancouver may be hosting the WInter Olympics, but it also seems to triumph in dumpling devouring. Over 38 meals in 12 restaurants, our indefatigable writer beholds the thrill of noodle pulling. (Warning: Don't read this on an empty stomach)
Forget about dumpling hunting in San Francisco. Cancel that pilgrimage to Flushing, Queens, for fish ball soup. If it's Chinese food you're after, pack your chopsticks for Vancouver—and say a silent thanks to geopolitics as your plane lands. It was 1997's repatriation of Hong Kong that began the mass influx of Chinese to British Columbia's lower mainland, a migration which continues to this day, fueled in part by Canada's immigrant-friendly policies. Today, almost one in five of Vancouver's two million residents is ethnically Chinese.
Combine those demographics with the city's legendary seafood and you have the recipe for an outsize number of extremely good Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Szechuan restaurants. According to local Chinese food critic and writer Stephanie Yuen—who was born in Hong Kong and has eaten extensively there, in mainland China, and in Taiwan—Vancouver is home to the best Chinese food in the world. Period. Perhaps that explains why visitors from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have started showing up in Vancouver just to eat the food they so love. Maybe it's time you did likewise.
Conde Nast Traveler magazines picks for some great Chinese dishes are:
Best seafood: The Golden Dungeness Crab at Kens Chinese Restaurant. Invented right here by Ken himself and no one else does it better. 1097 Kingsway, 604-873-6338.
Best dumpling: Xiao Long Bao at Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House. They melt in the steamer and give each bite a mouth-bursting pop of savoury juiciness. 1537 West Broadway, 604-733-9696.
Best only in Vancouver: A tie between sauteed geoduck with stir-fried mushrooms and the 3 Red Chili Pepper, both at Yans Garden, 9948 Lougheed Hwy., Burnaby, 604-421-8823.
Best noodle dish: Preserved vegetable and pork soup at Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House (see above). Supple noodles are made in-house and arrive floating in a homemade chicken broth adultered with pork bone for extra umami.
Best breakfast: Congee with shredded pork and preserved egg at Congee Noodle House, 141 East Broadway, 604-879-8221.
Best Chinese dessert: 2 Golden Pumpkin with honeyed walnut at Yans Garden (see above). The dish will initialy strike you as simplistic but by the third bite youll be in love with its crispy exterior which hides a nutty, gently spicy interior that verges on nougat.
Best soup: 4 salted and fresh pork in a hot pot at Loons Noodle House, 4853 Main St., 604-879-7879. Sturdy northern peasant fare at its best.
Single best culinary reason to fly to Vancouver: Guizhou-style tilapia with cilantro and chii sauce at S&W Pepper House. Mouth-numbingy hot as it is awesome. 6820 No. 3 Rd., Richmond, 604-304-0118.
Best Asian mall: Yaohan Centre. Suburban reinterpretation of Hong Kong. 3700 No. 3 Rd., Richmond.